Ocean’s Eleven

Stars: George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Andy Garcia, Don Cheadle, Elliot Gould, Carl Reiner, Julia Roberts
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Writer: Ted Griffin, based on the screenplay by Harry Brown and Charles Lederer and story by George Clayton Johnson and Jack Golden Russell

Maybe I was blinded by all the star power in this film to notice anything else extraordinary about it . Maybe I’ve seen one too many heist films (this year alone). Either way, my feeling about Ocean’s Eleven (a remake of the 1960 “Rat Pack” vehicle starring Frank Sinatra and friends) is that it’s a fairly mundane affair whose only real sparkle comes from glowing, well-timed dialogue and the performances by Elliot Gould and Carl Reiner. Although, I do admit that George Clooney’s and Brad Pitt’s snazzy duds and good looks make for a pleasant eyeful.

Director Steven Soderbergh, once again as his own cinematographer, manages to turn the glitzy, effervescent city of Las Vegas into a dark, murky mess by using the same lousy blue and yellow filters that so muddied his previous films Out of Sight and Traffic. The effect is like trying to watch the film through a tinted bottle. I kept blinking, hoping someone would shine a spotlight on the actors.

As for the story, it’s a flick about a casino heist with absolutely impossible odds that gets pulled off with a total lack of suspense but with some nice plot turns nonetheless.

George Clooney plays Danny Ocean, a con artist just out of prison who’s anxious for some new action. He hatches a plan to simultaneously rob three Vegas casinos which all use the same vault, a take of at least $150-million on fight night. The best part of the film follows with the recruitment of former buddies and colleagues, all experts in various larcenous fields. There’s cardsharp Rusty Ryan (Brad Pitt), master pickpocket Linus Caldwell (Matt Damon), a security expert (Edward Jemison), some crazy auto mechanics / gofers (Scott Caan and Casey Affleck) an explosives’ master (Don Cheadle as Basher, cockney-accented here) and a 95-pound Chinese acrobat named Yen (played by Shaobo Qin). Rounding out the crew is Reuben Tishkoff, a wonderfully wacky character played by Elliott Gould who ends up financing the caper and Carl Reiner as Saul Bloom, a master scammer past his prime. Andy Garcia plays suave casino owner Terry Benedict who just happens to have acquired Danny’s former wife Tess, the dazzling Julia Roberts, who manages to look not all that dazzling in Soderbergh’s camera lens. Danny doesn’t just want all of Terry’s money; he wants his wife back so it’s more than just business; it’s personal.

In no uncertain words, Danny tells his gathered crew that the vault is impregnable and the odds of getting past all the security features, which we see in sufficient detail, are pretty much impossible. So, are they in, or what? Of course they are.

Lotta says:
The plan plays out nicely, entertainingly and of course unbelievably. It goes pretty much by the book with only minor hiccups here and there – absolutely nothing to get your knickers twisted over. And that’s the problem. The plot’s smoother than George Clooney’s and Andy Garcia’s line delivery. You never get emotionally involved in anything these guys do. You’re never at the edge of your seat thinking they’ll get caught or scratching your head in amazement as to how they (and the writer) pulled it off. It’s simply what it is – ho hum. Cubic Zirconium.

Reviewed 12/7/01